Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Deer Season, Part Deux

A week ago, I got a big surprise when a young buck jumped into my headlights at a range of about 10 feet. My Blazer took some damage but was still drivable; the deer did not dare as well.
We got the call from the body shop, and it looks like a hefty $2,100 tab to replace the grill and a headlight, untwist the bumper, and replace the hood. What surprised me was that the insurance company decided to fix it, since the truck is 11 years old.
One piece of good news out of this incident - someone got some nice venison out of it. I spoke with our friendly neighborhood police officer, and he tells me that the carcass was gone pretty quickly.

Tags: Deer, Life, Road Kill

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Go Navy!

Alright all you Navy football fans, get your beers chilled and your TVs tuned to CBS (the only reason to watch that pathetic excuse for a network):

Navy (8-3) will play host to Army (3-8) in the 107th edition of the Army-Navy game Saturday at a sold-out Lincoln Financial Field (68,532) in Philadelphia. The Mids will be gunning for a fourth-straight Commander-In-Chief's Trophy and with a victory, the Navy senior class will become the first in school history to go 8-0 against Army and Air Force.
The game is also available on Sirius satellite radio, channel 130, and online at http://www.navysports.com/.

I'm ready for a heck of a game!


Tags: Army, Navy, Football

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Deer Season

As most folks in Jersey know, deer season opened yesterday in Pennsylvania. Living near the river, we always see a large increase in our neighborhood deer population during the week after Thanksgiving - the smart ones swim the Delaware River to avoid being shot. We've actually seen them climbing the banks down the block from our house.
This evening, I ran into one of the not-so-smart ones - quite literally - with my 11-year-old, 107,000+ mile Chevy Blazer. People talk about the figurative "deer in the headlights look," and I got to see the real thing.
So now I get to have body work done, and suck up a $500 insurance deductible right before Christmas. Isn't that wonderful?

Tags: Life, Deer

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Have you ever?

Lifted this from Jim:

1. Bought everyone in the bar a drink – How can you not when it's 25-cent draft night?
2. Swam with wild dolphins – Virginia Beach, many times. They come within a couple hundred yards of the shore.
3. Climbed a mountain – Mount Monadnock. CYO hiking trip - twice.
4. Taken a Ferrari for a test drive – No, but I owned 3 different Corvettes.
5. Been inside the Great Pyramid – Outside on horseback, but not inside.
6. Held a tarantula – oog. I hate spiders!
7. Taken a candlelit bath with someone – Does an electrically-lit hot tub count?
8. Said “I love you’ and meant it! – Yep.
9. Hugged a tree – Once, after way too much schnapps. I thought it was my friend, and kept calling it Ralph.
10. Bungee jumped – Gravity is not a toy.
11. Visited Paris – Only tourists go there. If you want to visit France, go to the villages outside Toulon, where they still remember the American soldiers who drove out the Nazis.
12. Watched a lightning storm at sea – Watched it, then drove the ship into it because we needed to get the salt washed off.
13. Stayed up all night long and saw the sun rise – More times than I can count.
14. Seen the Northern Lights – Nope.
15. Gone to a huge sports game – 1986 NBA Championship, Game 6, Boston Garden.
16. Walked the stairs to the top of the leaning Tower of Pisa – No.
17. Grown and eaten your own vegetables – My (wife's) garden this year included carrots, peas, broccoli, tomatoes (3 kinds), squash, green beans, strawberries, currants, raspberries, blackberries, plums, cherries, quince, lettuce, onions, basil, spinach, peppers, and grapes. There was probably some other stuff I didn't notice.
18. Touched an iceberg – Nope.
19. Slept under the stars – Camping is fun. Field training is not.
20. Changed a baby’s diaper – More times than I can count, but I avoided it more often than not. I have a very selective sense of smell.
21. Taken a trip in a hot air balloon – Gravity is not a toy.
22. Watched a meteor shower – Yep.
23. Drunk champagne – The bubbles tickle.
24. Given more than you can afford to charity – Never that much, but I have given more than was expected.
25. Looked up at the night sky through a telescope – Telescope, binoculars, periscope, and a sextant.
26. Had an uncontrollable giggling fit at the worst possible moment – Not that I can recall.
27. Had a good fight – Some pretty bad ones, too.
28. Bet on a winning horse – Bet against a winning horse, too.
29. Asked out a stranger – If a blind date counts, yes.
30. Had a snowball fight – Awesome ones.
31. Screamed as loudly as you possibly can – Regularly, down at the tracks while growing up. Trains are really loud.
32. Held a lamb – Yes.
33. Seen a total eclipse – No.
34. Ridden a roller coaster – Only under duress. Gravity is not a toy.
35. Scored a winning goal – I'm more of a team player in a supporting role.
36. Danced like a fool and not cared who was looking – I only dance when drunk. Usually by the time I get that drunk, I'm asleep.
37. Adopted an accent for an entire day – Several times.
38. Actually felt happy about your life, even for just a moment – Feeling that way now.
39. Visited all 5 continents – There are seven. I've been to North America (duh), Europe, Africa, and Asia. Lived in Asia for a year.
40. Taken care of someone who was drunk – Absolutely.
41. Danced with a stranger in a foreign country – See number 36.
42. Watched wild whales – Yes. Seen dead ones, too.
43. Stolen a sign – No, just lumber.
44. Backpacked – Yep.
45. Taken a road-trip – I've done the whole East Coast several times. Longest leg was Boca Raton FL to Virginia Beach (930 miles) in one shot. Solo.
46. Gone rock climbing – Gravity is not a toy.
47. Midnight walk on the beach – Does a patrol count?
45. Gone sky diving – Gravity is not a toy.
49. Taken a train through Europe – Took a ship around it once or twice.
50. Been heartbroken longer than you were actually in love – Nope.
51. In a restaurant, sat at a stranger’s table, and had a meal with them – We weren't strangers by the end of the meal.
52. Milked a cow – Doesn't milk come in carboard containers?
53. Alphabetized your CDs – By first and last name!
54. Sung karaoke – I wouldn't exactly call it singing.
55. Lounged around in bed all day – Sure.
56. Gone scuba diving – Loved it - Hawaii, an old quarry in PA, even the Persian Gulf.
57. Kissed in the rain – Sure.
58. Gone to a drive-in theatre – Amazing how many teenagers you can fit in a VW Squareback when the drive-in has a $5 per carload special.
59. Started a business – No.
60. Taken a martial arts class – Mandatory classes in college: boxing (2 semesters), wrestling, judo.
61. Been in a movie – Just a movie theater.
62. Crashed a party – Yes.
63. Gone without food for 5 days – 24 hours is my personal record, but I prefer no more than 6.
64. Gotten a tattoo – No.
65. Got flowers for no reason – No.
66. Performed on stage – I wouldn't exactly call it a performance.
67. Been to Las Vegas – No.
68. Recorded music – From vinyl to 8-track, yes.
69. Buried one/both of your parents – Neither, thankfully.
70. Been on a cruise ship – It was a cruise, but not a cruise ship. Too many Jarheads blocking the passageways and standing in lines.
71. Spoken more than one language fluently – I can order a beer in at least 5 languages.
72. Picked up and moved to another city to just start over – Yes.
73. Walked a famous bridge – the bridge of a famous battleship, many times. Each trip was a 4-hour walk.
74. Had plastic surgery – Nope.
75. Survived an accident that you shouldn’t have survived – Three car wrecks, any one of which could have been much more ugly. Worst I ended up with was a sprained wrist and a near-totaled convertible.
76. Written articles for a large publication – Submitted, but not published.
77. Tried to lose weight seriously – Lost 70 lbs in 2002-03. It took 60 weeks.
78. Been in the military – US Navy. But you knew that.
79. Read a good book – And some really bad ones, too.
80. Piloted an airplane – Fixed wing and helicopter. Not qualified to do either by myself, with good reason.
80. Petted a stingray – Yep.
81. Broken someone’s heart – Don't think so, but it's certainly possible.
82. Broken a bone – Busted my thumb trying to beat some sense into a college roomate. Didn't work.
83. Eaten sushi – If I was meant to eat raw fish, I'd have been born a grizzly bear.
84. Had your picture in the newspaper – Sure.
85. Parasailed – Gravity is not a toy.
86. Skipped all your school reunions – No.
87. Shaved your head – Nearly. Lost my hair in a football game bet when I was a plebe.
88. Caused a car accident – See number 75. 16-year-old boys and 1968 Firebird Convertibles are a dangerous mix.
89. Pretended to be “sick” – Not that I can recall. Wished I was sick many times.
90. Swam in the Pacific Ocean – Yep, in Hawaii and California.
91. Saved someone’s life – Not directly.
92. Fainted – Not really fainting, per se. More like "sleeping it off."
93. Been in the room while someone is giving birth – Five times, once with a C-section. Cut the cord, too!
94. Hitchhiked – No.
95. Adopted a child – No.
96. Been caught daydreaming – I've been caught sleeping in class, but not daydreaming. No imagination I guess.
97. Been to the Painted Desert – No.
98. Called off a wedding engagement – Not in this life.
99. Become a follower of Jesus Christ – Sure, when my parents had me baptized.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Valour-IT End Game

It's coming right down to the wire in the Valour-IT Veterans' Day Challenge, with just over 4 hours to go, we are less than $4,600 just over $1,400 from our goal! The graph below shows that we were at $175,610 as of 1911 EST; as I prepared it Army crossed the line and the Marines brought in another big donation, pushing the total to $178,568

The only team not over $45,000 is Air Force. They're $8,300 short of the goal; must have spent their time building O-Clubs instead of airfields. Pretend you are Congress and give them more money to make them operational.

Updated 2000: Here's a snapshot of Army crossing the finish line. Nicely done.

Update, 2119: Ladies and gentleman, we have done it! As of this moment, the total stands at $180,095; Army took the hill with a $500 donation to get us there, supported by the Marines with another $50 for good luck. There's still time to help Air Force make it to the summit, but the primary main objective has been achieved! Congratulations, everyone!

Tags: Valour-IT

Friday, November 10, 2006

$24,966 ...

... and 12 hours are all that stand between now and the Valour-IT goal. The chart shows that we are oh-so-close to hitting $180,000 by 1100, 11/11.

All four teams have done their part today, with Navy still leading the pack, the Marines going vertical, and the Army and Air Force moving along briskly as well.

Our Jarhead brothers and sisters only need another $1,761 to hit the $45,000 mark. Watch the space below, and shift fire to get Army over the line once the Marines make the grade. If we keep up the joint effort, all four teams together will have done something wonderful for the injured men and women who have sacrificed so much for us.

Tags: Valour-IT


At this instant in time, the Navy Valour-IT team is at the goal line, and has collected $45,000 to support our injured troops. Now that we have reached the first objective, it's time to push on. The next objective is $180,000 for the drive, and we must keep the pressure on to help the other services deliver.

Army, Air Force, and the Marines need our help, and this has always been a joint operation. Let's give the Marines a birthday present first, then move on to the Air Force.

Tags: Valour-IT, Navy

November 10, 1775

Here's health to you and to our Corps
Which we are proud to serve;

In many a strife we've fought for life
And never lost our nerve.

If the Army and the Navy
Ever gaze on Heaven's scenes,

They will find the streets are guarded
By United States Marines.
Happy Birthday, Leathernecks!

Tags: USMC

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Two More Days to Support Valour-IT

There are an awful lot of bloggers supporting Valour-IT. Many of them have great stories to tell. I just realized how many of the Navy team members I haven't visited recently (see the team blogroll in the sidebar). Check out what a few of them have to say:

  • Boudicca looks to the past and finds a parallel with the present
  • An "old as dirt" mustang discusses real courage
  • Barry at enrevanche is matching donations to Valour-IT - or at least he was until you generous donors maxed him out at $500.
  • Jim from FEWL.NET worries about losing the chaplain from his cruiser
  • Flag Gazer reports an unusual donation
  • Jason is going to OCS to be a pork chop
  • Frank J. says, "A chicken in every pot, a bullet in every terrorist."
These are the people who make Valour-IT work. Show them your support by dropping in once in a while.

Progress Update:

In just two short days, this year's Valour-IT Veteran's Day drive will come to a close. We remain short of our $180,000 goal, but with your help we can still get there; at the current total ($127,713) through PayPal, plus the auctions and any checks that have been mailed in it could be close.

The Navy team is almost over the $45,000 mark -- only $2,700 to go! Press on, Navy!

Tags: Valour-IT, Navy, Beat Army

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Wednesday Upate

Thanks (again) to the folks at Power Line, Navy remains in the lead at almost $40,000, with the Army, Marines and Air Force each maintaining the same relative positions they held yesterday. With $5,244 left until meeting our goal, we can't let up yet - those Army guys will pull a rabbit out of their hat like last year and end up winning again, and we can't have that.

Of course, the competition is really just a means to stimulate donations, and while they are short of the goal we still have quite an impressive number on our hands. As of 2300 this evening, $119,772 has been paid via PayPal, and the auctions so far account for another $1,000 or more. That's more than 20% better than last year's drive, and we still have Thursday, Friday and Saturday for a final push.

Thus endeth the counting. Go forth and find more!


Tags: Valour-IT, Navy

Why I Support Valour-IT

My best friend from high school always wanted to be a soldier. Soon after we graduated, he was off to boot camp, and ended up in the field artillery at Fort Richardson while I studied at the boat school. He always had great stories when we were able to get together on leave; his passion for an Army career was amazing, even at the tender age of 19, and he wanted nothing more than the opportunity to defend our great nation against all enemies.
After a successful tour in Alaska, he transferred to Yakima, Washington, and that's where the story gets interesting. About a month after I got my commission, I got a call about my friend, who had been in a motorcycle accident. His helmet had saved his life, but just barely. Recovery was touch-and-go for a long time, but he finally pulled through.
In the twenty-one years since that accident, my Cold Warrior friend has been legally blind, as a result of brain damage from his accident. He also has great difficulty with fine motor control, and can only write well enough to fit a few dozen words legibly on a legal pad. He only recently got connected with e-mail, and needs help to be able to read and respond.
When I see what Valour-IT is able to do for wounded warriors today, I wonder how my friend's life would have changed if the technology had existed back then. The ability to reach out for support from someone in a similar situation, to stay in touch with family and friends, even to record his thoughts and fears could have made a huge difference.

Make a difference for one of today's warriors. Every dollar donated goes to the wounded. Click the link in the sidebar so that they have an opportunity my friend didn't have.

Tags: Valour-IT

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


Absolutely floored. Flat on my back, almost passed out. That's how I feel right now after seeing the response generated by the kind readers of Power Line. Scott Johnson put up his first post about Valour-IT 23.5 hours ago, and a second post 12 hours later. In the day before Scott's post, the Navy team collected $985. In the 24 hours since Scott brough Valour-IT to the attention of his readers, we have collected $17,145, and vaulted into the lead of our little interservice competition.

Even better news than Navy's big move, we've managed to pull the totals that much closer to the goal line. The project as a whole has gone from more than $26,000 behind to only a $16,000 deficit, and we are now well past last year's total collected with four days left in the drive. We have more than $111,000 committed, which is enough to buy 166 laptops to support our injured troops.

All of the credit for this goes to the readers of Power Line. We would not be where we are without them. From the bottom of my heart and on behalf of those not yet able to send a message themselves, thank you for all you've done.

Tags: VALOUR-IT, Navy

Update, 11:14 PM EST: Paul from Maryland just dropped a $3,000 donation on the Navy team. I am absolutely in awe of the generosity of people like Paul. They are great Americans and heroes in the truest sense.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Valour-IT Monday Checklist

Monday's Checklist:

1) Recruit new team members. Done. Welcome aboard, Power Line. Thank you for taking time to join us on what has to be the busiest day of your year.
2) Check out the auctions at NZ Bear's place. Done. Lots of cool stuff, like rare challenge coins, SUBGRU wine glasses, ship posters, books, and even a couple of sweaty old flight suits (worn in combat, no less!). Navy is leading the charge on this one, while the other teams fail to capitalize on the opportunity.
3) Suck up to local blog friends for more contributions and linkage. Done, done, and done. Thank you, New Jersey!
4) Post the latest stats. This job has gotten easier now that I've figured out a way to automate the data capture. Team Navy is still lagging far behind the others, but now that Power Line and the New Jersey crew are on board we should start to close the gap. Army has retaken the lead at $24,758, with the Marines $450 behind. Air Force has a comfortable 3rd place position, while we watch everyone else's six.

For the totals, we have effectively broken $90,000 with $89,901 in the till and another $800-plus promised through the auctions. There will also be checks and non-team contributions to bump up the numbers, but it's still a long way to go for $180,000.

Keep charging everyone!

Tags: VALOUR-IT, Navy

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Valour-IT Sunday Update

Welcome, Power Line readers! For the latest stats, please head up to the top of the site.

Navy Team, there is good and bad news in the Valour-IT statistics at the end of the weekend. The good news is that Team Navy has so far collected $17,281, enough to purchase about 26 laptops for the injured who need them so much.
The bad news, as you can see on the chart below, is that we are getting our collective butts kicked by the other three teams. As of 2200 this evening, the Marines stand in the lead with more than $24,000; Army is second just over $22,000; and Air Force is third at around $21,000.

It really is time to get moving now, Navy! We need to average $5,000 per day to reach our goal by Veterans' Day. Our shortfall versus goal is $7,700, which would provide another 11 laptops to the program. We are responsible for 51% of the total miss of $15,109, and need to make sure that we don't continue to slow the effort down.

Keep your spirits up, and contact everyone you know, whether or not you think they will help. We need a massive surge over the next few days to get over the line.

Tags: VALOUR-IT, Navy

Saturday, November 04, 2006

VALOUR-IT Saturday Update

Folks, we definitely need to kick it up a notch on the Navy team. To reach our $45,000 goal, we need to pull in $3,612 per day. Our running average as of this post is only $2,668! You can see in the chart below that we are fallling way off the pace, with more than $5,000 to make up and only a week left to do it. It's time to secure the brow, take in all lines, and get this ship underway!

Even worse, the project as a whole is slipping behind, with all of our competitors missing the mark. None of them are as far behind as Team Navy, but is still adds up to a $15,000 deficit.

Dig deep, folks. It's going to be hard to make our goal, but it can be done.

Update 12:47 PM: Here's the breakdown by team against the goal. Everyone (except Army) seems to be moving in the right direction right now; let's hope we can keep it up!

Tags: VALOUR-IT, Navy

Thursday, November 02, 2006

VALOUR-IT Progress Report

The VALOUR-IT Veterans' Day challenge is off to a great start, with over $55,000 collected in just over three days! Only $125k left to go, and we can get there with your help. Here's the total progress so far:

In the competition between services, it looks like the (ugh!) Army is on top, but the Marines are close behind and coming up fast. The Air Force, in third place, is only about $500 ahead of Navy. Note in the chart below that Navy's average contribution is about $5 more than Air Force, so we should be able to catch up pretty soon.

Navy has gained a lot of ground today, closing the gap on Army from $3,700 yesterday evening to only $1800 as of this posting. This is great news, but there's still a long way to go -- our team is still more than $600 short of pace needed to hit the target.

Folks, this really is a wonderful cause, and the early returns via the blogosphere are very encouraging. With your help, the Navy team can reach our goal of $45,000 by Veterans' Day. Please, click the button in the sidebar, make a small (or large) donation, and help make a wounded soldier's life easier.

Tags: VALOUR-IT, Navy

Monday, October 30, 2006

Voice Activated Laptops for OUR Injured Troops

The VALOUR-IT project, in which I participated last year, is starting up its annual drive in preparation for Veteran's Day. The project, which has so far provided 650 laptops to troops injured in combat, is well worth your time, energy, and money. Please consider making an online donation at the link in my sidebar.

Like last year, blogger teams representing the Army (Blackfive), Air Force (Op-For), Marine Corps (Villainous Company), and Navy (Chaotic Synaptic Activity) will be competing to see who can raise the most. Navy was first over the line to the goal of $20,000, and ended in a close finish just behind the Army bloggers. This year, the bar has been raised, with a goal of $45,000 per team. Please give your support to our troops, and do it through the Navy team!

Tags: VALOUR-IT, Soldiers Angels, Navy

Thursday, October 26, 2006

The NJ Gay "Marriage" Ruling

Glenn Reynolds is running a poll, asking whether or not the NJ Supreme Court's "decision" will help the Republicans nationally. I don't think it will, simply because the decision was really a punt. Typical of the Imperial New Jersey Supreme Court, it directs the legislature to take an action, rather than actually deciding anything on the merits of the law and our state Constitution.
Enlighten NJ called it early:

A ruling in favor of gay marriage would be topic one in the state, drowning out all other issues for the balance of the campaign. Major reverberations would be felt around the country and the last thing Democrats, and particularly Bob Menendez, need are hot debates about activist courts and gay marriage.
The timing of the court’s decision can be controlled and a decision to legalize gay marriage in New Jersey certainly could have waited until after the election. A ruling against gay marriage can’t hurt Democrats and may well help their electoral chances.
Court imposed gay marriage in New Jersey is not going to happen. We might be wrong - but if gay marriage becomes legal in New Jersey tomorrow, the ruling will become know as The October Surprise of 2006.

Chief Justice Deborah Poritz may be a socialist political hack, but she is certainly not stupid. A decision to legalize gay marriage outside of the constitution and the law could have become a powerful Republican turnout driver; this decision doesn't have that power.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

New tool for War on Terror

Today I had the distinct honor of attending the launch of the future USS Freedom, LCS 1. The christening was a "smashing" success. After five years of work to define what a littoral combatant should be able to do, and helping to influence the design of the ship, it was a real pleasure to see her with my own eyes this morning, and to witness the first Great Lakes launch of a naval combatant since World War II.
From the Lockheed Martin press release:

MARINETTE, WI, September 23, 2006 – History was made here today when the nation’s first Littoral Combat Ship, FREEDOM (LCS-1) – the inaugural ship in an entirely new class of U.S. Navy surface warships – was christened and launched at the Marinette Marine shipyard.
The agile 377-foot FREEDOM -- designed and built by a team led by Lockheed Martin [NYSE:LMT] -- will help the Navy defeat growing littoral, or close-to-shore, threats and provide access and dominance in coastal water battlespace. Displacing 3,000 metric tons and with a capability of reaching speeds well over 40 knots, FREEDOM will be a fast, maneuverable and networked surface combatant with operational flexibility to execute focused missions, such as mine warfare, anti-submarine warfare, surface warfare and humanitarian relief.
FREEDOM’s christening ceremony included the traditional smashing of a champagne bottle across the ship’s bow, performed by ship’s sponsor Birgit Smith. Smith, the wife of U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Paul Ray Smith, who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for bravery and gallantry above and beyond the call of duty in Operation Iraqi Freedom, was selected as FREEDOM’s sponsor by Secretary of the Navy Gordon R. England.
FREEDOM made a spectacular side-launch before an audience of thousands who had lined both sides of the Menominee River, which divides the states of Wisconsin and Michigan.
“Just a little more than three years ago she was just an idea, now FREEDOM stands before us. And on this morning, we christen her, send her down the ways and get her ready to join the Fleet next year,” said Admiral Michael G. Mullen, U.S. Navy, Chief of Naval Officer. “It comes none too soon … because there are tough challenges out there that ONLY she can handle.”

There are those who would criticize the LCS program as ill-defined, and potentially too expensive, but can we really afford to wait until everything is perfectly decided in the face of today's enemy? The Arleigh Burke class, the last combatant program to launch, started in the late 1970s and didn't commission a ship until 1991. During that period, the perceived threat for the Burkes didn't really change -- they were built to defend the fleet against mass air attack, strike at enemy land targets, and defeat the nuclear submarine threat. That threat is gone, replaced by the massed small boat attack, the mine, and the quiet diesel submarine. The Burke class is serving admirably against those threats, because it has to. Doesn't it make sense to build small, fast, shallow draft ships as a complement to the Burke class, allowing them to concentrate on keeping the blue-water sea lines of communication open?
I believe that we need to return to the developmental nature of shipbuilding experienced in the 1920s and 30s. Look at the number of different ship classes created during that timeframe, and the radically improved capability achieved in the late 30s designs compared to those of the early 20s. By building a few ships, experimenting with them, and feeding the results back into the design process we developed the seeds of World War II's great fleet. LCS follows in that tradition -- the Navy is building four ships to meet a single set of requirements, with two radically different designs. Experiments undertaken with those ships will inform future designs. Eventually, the Navy will have 55 ships, each able to take on modular mission packages to adapt to new missions, new threats, and new environments.
These ships have generated significant overseas interest, as well. Israel is one of the most interested countries, and is pursuing a study right now to take advantage of the LCS 1 hull form and mechanical arrangements with their own combat system needs built into the ship. Rather than buy a foreign design, I believe we should press on, and use the foreign interest to lower our costs by spreading the overhead across more hulls.
Here are a few articles for your consideration on the subject:
DefenseNews.com - US Navy Studies Adapting LCS For Israel - 04/10 ...
Israel, Saudi Arabia Eye US Navy Ship
Give the Navy time. I think they really do know what they are doing. There will be some rough patches along the way, but the taxpayers will end up with a very effective ship, and will not have to pay through the nose to get it.

Tags: US Navy, War on Terror, Littoral Combat Ship, USS Freedom

Sunday, September 10, 2006

No Higher Honor

I've always had a fascination with ships, and especially the heroic efforts of men to save them in combat. I think this fascination comes from my grandfather, who was a submariner starting in the early 1930's and left his wife and young son safely behind in Pearl Harbor during a late 1941 Western Pacific patrol. My Dad doesn't remember much of the Japanese attack, and my grandmother rarely spoke of it, but I sucked up everything I could read on that battle and many others in the Pacific.
The men who brought our nation back from Pearl Harbor to defeat the Japanese live on today, although their stories aren't told the way they used to be.
During my time in the Navy, four ships suffered significant damage at the hands of an enemy - USS Stark, USS Samuel B. Roberts, USS Tripoli, and USS Princeton. In each case, sailors trained for the mission executed beautifully and saved their ships to fight another day.
A newly published book, No Higher Honor, by Brad Peniston, chronicles the tale of USS Samuel B. Roberts (FFG 58). I haven't read the book yet, but it looks to be a winner. Here's a taste from Chapter 1:

On the forecastle, Gibson raised his binoculars again. This time, there was something out there. A half-mile off the starboard bow, three objects bobbed some distance apart. They were black, like the ubiquitous floating trash bags. But these had protrusions and rounded carapaces...maybe they were dead sheep? Gibson had seen plenty of those bloated forms, the castoff dead of Australian livestock carriers.

These objects were different, shinier.

That's a mine! he thought.

This kind of narrative just feels right. Amazon reviews give it five stars. Go buy the book.

Tags: Navy, Samuel B. Roberts, FFG

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Testing Writely

I've started playing around with Writely, Google's latest beta product. Writely is a web-based word processing tool, which can save your files in Word, OpenOffice, rich text, PDF, or HTML. It also has the capability to post to different blog platforms, and allows for collaboration between different authors.
It seems like a pretty cool toy, but I don't think it's quite ready for prime time yet. Knowing Google, it'll get there pretty quickly.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

28 days without a post

I am such a blogging delinquent! I should be on here day after day, posting about the horrors of excess taxation, covering my local school board meetings, or just saying something to keep the blog alive!

But I haven't.

Until now.

You see, at church this morning I was given something to blog about. Something that was a little different from normal.

One of the families in our parish who normally sit about 10 rows in front of us came in as they usually do, but with an interesting twist. This family, with four strapping young men, had among its members a brand-new Marine PFC! How did I know, you might ask? He was in his uniform, and you could tell from the looks of the parishoners that every one of them was proud to have this young Marine worship in our church today. None looked more proud than his parents, and rightly so.

After mass, a number of folks took the time to shake the young Marine's hand. I count myself fortunate to have been among them, and to have had the opportunity to thank him for his service. I hope that the love and respect shown in our church today helps to sustain him over the next few years, as he does the things that Marines do every day.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Exercise in Futility

This evening, after my second consecutive weekend road trip to Connecticut, I filled out my "FAIR" rebate application. I was hoping to get a little of the tax relief Governor Corzine promised during his campaign. Sure would be nice to get a few hundred dollars back from the property tax relief fund.

The state provides a nice, online form with which to submit an application. It walks through all of the values required, and generates a receipt at the end. It even reminds the user to either save or print the receipt, as it is the only record that an application has been submitted.

Unfortunately, I probably won't get the rebate. You see, I worked really hard last year to generate enough cash flow to pay my bills, feed my kids, and fund my copious tax liabilities. In fact, I worked about 17% overtime, and that put me into the realm of the ineligible "rich" by a couple hundred bucks. Had I only worked 16% - 20 hours less - then I would be eligible to receive the rebate.

Really "FAIR" system, isn't it? Thanks, Governor!

Tags: New Jersey, Taxes

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

OAR Northwest Update

It looks like the boys from OAR Northwest, in their quest to row across the Atlantic Ocean, have been getting a bit too much sun. In their latest Team Blog posts, they have given themselves superhero names. Not That There's Anything Wrong With That, of course.
Oh well, at least they are still kicking limey butt, as is appropriate on this beautiful Independence Day. Keep on strokin', guys!
Send them some 4th-of-July love, via Iridium.com, number 881641426086.

Tags: Shepherd Ocean Fours, Rowing

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Ocean Fours Race Update

As of 4:14 PM (Greenwich Mean Time), the American team in James Robert Hanssen has made the transition out of the Gulf Stream. They've got 1,820 nautical miles left to go, and have opened up a 70 nautical mile lead on the next closest team, Yorkshire Warrior.

If you stop by the race tracking page, you'll see that the organizers have a bit different number. They are apparently just subtracing distance travelled from the straight-line distance between New York and Falmouth. Unfortunately, that doesn't work so well when you are following the surface of a spherical planet. By their measure, the team from OAR Northwest would have a lead of nearly 250 miles.

Tags: Shepherd Ocean Fours, Rowing

Friday, June 30, 2006

And now for something completely different

Recently, I've been following the progress of the Shepherd Ocean Fours rowing race. This is really a phenomenal race -- four teams of rowers (four men each) set out from New York on June 10th, bound for Falmouth, England. Twenty days into the race, three of the teams have covered over 1,000 miles. The fourth had a mechanical failure and is safely back in port.

The enormity of this task is really daunting -- take a look at this map to get a feel for what they've accomplished and what they have left to do (the rings are 500 nautical miles each!):

I've been following the American team, OAR Northwest, pretty closely through a friend at work. As of this morning, the Americans in the James Robert Hanssen have about a 30 nautical mile lead, and are making good use of the Atlantic Ocean currents to stay ahead. They're the green line on my chart.

They, like the two British teams (Team Hesco and Yorkshire Warrior), are rowing for charity as well as for the challenge. You can show your support for the team by making a donation, half of which will go to the American Lung Association of Washington to further asthma research and promote general lung health. Why that particular charity?

Team captain, Jordan Hanssen, watched his father collapse and die from an asthma attack when he was just three years old. He later developed, but fortunately outgrew, the disease. His life of athletics, both swimming and rowing, is both an act of defiance towards this affliction and a hope to spread knowledge of how it can be controlled. It is in honor of his father's memory that we have partnered with the American Lung Association of Washington and named our boat the

James Robert Hanssen

Individual donations are an integral part of the success of OAR Northwest. Your donations will help our team raise the significant anount of money we need to purchase and outfit the boat, and get it and ourselves to England and back!

You can also show your support by sending them a (free!) text message via Iridium.com, number 881641426086. The messages are limited to 160 characters, but the guys say they row faster with each one they receive.

Tags: Shepherd Ocean Fours, Rowing

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

State Employee Growth

Paul Nelson of NJ Fiscal Folly pointed out a great resource yesterday in NJ Government Employee Data. I spent a couple of hours last night going through the reports, and one thing I can tell you is that our structural problem in New Jersey has been brewing for an awfully long time.

New Jersey, like most other Northeastern states, has been growing at a decelerating rate through much of the 20th century. The linear growth trend suggests we may reach zero population growth in about sixteen years.
[editorial note: the vertical scale on the following chart should read "Growth Rate" rather than "Cumulative Growth"]

Even though the population growth is decelerating, the numbers add up significantly over a long period of time. I chose 1920 as a base year because it was the earliest readily accessible data point at the US Census website. From 1920 to 2005, New Jersey's population grew by 176%.

As noted by Enlighten-New Jersey, growth in state employment has, on average, been much higher than population growth, but with significantly more variability.

The only bright spot on this chart is the slight dip during the 80s (19%) and 90s (-5%), when state employee growth was held to more reasonable levels. Overall employment change for that period (13.3%) was actually less than population growth (14.2%). Governor McGreevey undid those gains and then some; by 2005 we had 26% more employees than in 1980, but only 18% more people in the state.

As Enlighten says, "government is becoming less productive and more costly with each passing year." How much more? Take a look at one final chart, showing the cumulative growth of the state's population versus the cumulative growth in state employees.

These numbers are truly staggering. The state employs nearly 1% of our population, and wants to add more. Governor Corzine's 2007 budget adds another 1,300 employees to the payroll. Contrast that with the US military. It had less than 0.5% of the population on active duty in 2005 (page 166), and will decrease by nearly 4% by 2007.

Tags: New Jersey, Taxes, Corzine, State Budget

Monday, June 19, 2006

Union - Management Relations

FAIRFIELD, CT -- The Industrial Division of the Communications Workers of America (IUE-CWA) held a rally this afternoon in front of General Electric headquarters in Fairfield, Connecticut. At issue: leaked internal management memos that indicate company plans to downsize the unionized workforce by 15%.
Union leaders are outraged. Union president Jim Clark, addressing the 6,000-strong crowd, demanded that GE Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Immelt publicly denounce the memos and support full execution of the company's contract with the union.
To the surprise of everyone present, Immelt did just that. Appearing at the rally, he said he stood with the unions. "I'll stand with you. I'll fight with you,'' he said.

Real? No. Not in GE-land, where management caving in to union demands leads to an unsustainable business model. Just ask Delphi, whom the IUE sucked dry back in the day before CWA took them over.
... the forces that pushed Delphi into bankruptcy court have been building for years. As the auto industry has gone global, U.S. automakers — saddled with high-cost labor contracts negotiated in more prosperous times — now find themselves pitted against leaner overseas rivals.

In the real world, a board of directors faced with Immelt's fictional action would fire him so fast his head would spin. They have a fiduciary duty to their stockholders to keep the company as profitable as possible, and a rogue chief executive siding with the unions is not in the best interest of the owners of the company.
Here in New Jersey, however, we have failed to learn the lessons of history. Enlighten-New Jersey notes how Corzine Vows To "Fight For Public Employees."
Pubic workers enthusiastically support Corzine’s budget because it contains no layoffs or cuts to state worker salary increases and fringe benefits. With growing concerns over the disparity between public and private sector pay packages, some lawmakers have suggested Corzine take action this year to rein in the cost public employees.

Many New Jersey bloggers noted during the campaign that Jon Corzine was not fit to lead our state. He fails to represent the interests of the taxpayers who elected him, just as he did in the Senate for five years.
After only a few months in office, it should be abundantly clear to all that we cannot tolerate his incompetence. Our "board of directors," the Senate and Assembly, have a fiduciary duty to the taxpayers to ensure our state is operated efficiently. A chief of executive siding with the unions against the legislature does not serve that interest. Corzine must go.

Tags: New Jersey, Taxes, Corzine, State Budget

Tuesday, June 13, 2006


Well, this should be interesting. A friend invited me to sign up for Blogads, so I did. I've priced my advertising space ridiculously low, so if you want to get in on the ground floor, and cheap, click on the link in the sidebar RIGHT NOW.

Go on, CLICK IT!


Tags: Blogads

Monday, June 12, 2006

Taxing Us to Death, Revisited

Enlighten New Jersey notes today that New Jersey Democrats are Not Satisfied With $16,667 Per Person In Taxes.

Taxpayers want Trenton to cut state spending, not come up with new ways to extract money out of their wallets. Shifting taxes around and identifying new things to tax does not solve the problem.

The people of New Jersey already pay more than their fair of taxes, no matter what Governor Jon Corzine, Senator Bob Menendez and all the other state Democrats might have you believe. These numbers don’t lie. New Jersey’s per capita tax of $16,667 is the second highest in the nation. And that's before Corzine’s new hospital, sales and other proposed taxes.

The specific numbers to which Enlighten refers were provided by the Tax Foundation. In addition to the raw dollars, where New Jersey ranks second behind Connecticut, they also have a table showing the state, local, and federal tax burdens as a percentage of income, along with a projected "Tax Freedom Day" for each year starting in 1970. Back then, NJ's workers had "paid off" their taxes by April 18th; it now sits at May 6th. We rank 3rd in total tax burden across the country, and have only been out of the top five twice since 1982.

An interesting comparison from that table is the difference between New Jersey's state/local tax burden and the average across the country. Back in the days of Brendan Byrne and Tom Kean, New Jersey was consistently close to the national average, as shown in the graph below.

Over the long haul of the data available, New Jersey has on average been less than 1/10th of 1% higher than the national average; under Governor Florio, however, we were significantly more taxed than the rest of the country, to the tune of nearly 3/4%. The "Whitman tax cuts" our liberal friends like to rail about were really just a return to the mainstream of America from Florio's confiscatory scheme.

Governor Corzine, by proposing to increase our sales tax 16.7%, seeks to return to the Florio model of taxing us to death. The real solution is to cut total spending, not increase it by $2 billion and demand more tax money to cover a manufactured "deficit."

Tags: New Jersey, Taxes

Friday, June 09, 2006


Roberto at DynamoBuzz posts to let us know he's still alive, but busy.

Me too. I got snagged at work to help out on a project that was falling behind, so my overtime is up significantly over the past few weeks. Most of the summer is going to be like this, since we have a major proposal to write by September. Last time I worked on a big proposal, I averaged about 75 hours a week for the final month.

I'll still be lurking, but probably won't be posting too often between now and the heavy part of the campaign season.

Note: I had posted this using Firefox's "Blog This" extenstion, but somehow it was pointed at my template testing blog. I caught the error and moved this post three days later.

Tags: Stupid Blogger Tricks

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Remeber them

On this lovely Memorial Day weekend, please take time to thank a veteran. More importantly, remember to honor those who can no longer receive our thanks in person. They are immortalized in the third verse of the song, America:

O beautiful for heroes proved In liberating strife.
Who more than self the country loved
And mercy more than life!
America! America!
May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness
And every gain divine!

Tags: Memorial Day

Wednesday, May 17, 2006


Just realized it's been over a week since I posted anything. I'm still here, just busy with Real Life™ stuff. Working on a couple of things, hopefully will get them up this week.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Who Knew? School Administrators Come Out Against Cuts

Corzine Watch reports that, surprisingly, school administrators don't want their budgets cut. In fact, the administrators of our institutions of higher education feel so strongly about it, they've almost taken to threatening the legislature in testimony:

The administrators also argued that the financial hardships would be far worse than the $169 million in cuts, because the state has asked schools to take on an additional $121.8 million in new costs. The heavy financial burden the state is putting on the schools could have a long-term effect. Less students would be able to afford state schooling, which could force students out of state.
The state of New Jersey spends boatloads of money on its colleges. Take Rutgers, for example. In 2006, net subsidies through the Department of State budget totaled almost $331 million; 2007 net subsidies will be just short of $275 million (click to enlarge):

What's staggering to me is the gross amount of state support to Rutgers through Grants-in-Aid -- nearly $1.6 billion. The cut in state aid, shown in this budget line, is less than $31 million, or 1.9% of the total grant. This will hardly bankrupt an institution that has been in existence since 1766.

You'll notice from the table that one other line is significantly different between 2006 and 2007: Receipts from Tuition Increase. In 2005 and 2006, Rutgers had extra income of $26 and $28 million, respectively, from higher tuition rates.

The table below, again taken from the Department of State budget, shows the cost of attendance at Rutgers increased by 3.6% in 2005, and by 5.5% in 2006. In each of those years, tuition for both in-state and out-of-state undergrads increased by 8% (click to enlarge).

This year's budget only anticipates $860,000 from higher tuitions, and this is a proper position for the governor to take. Like the state, Rutgers (and the other institutions of higher education) must learn to manage expenditures within expected revenues. The model of the past, in which revenues are managed to cover desired expenses, has got to go. Students, as the administrators have correctly recognized, can no longer afford annual 8% increases in tuition. Neither can the state.

Tags: New Jersey, Taxes, Budget, Education

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Blogs on a Plane


The Fifth Column presents Carnival of the New Jersey Bloggers #51: Blogs on a Plane, and does a damn fine job of it. A very nice flying experience...

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Post-Carnival Slump

Why is it, after hosting a Carnival I fall into a period with no motivation to write? I know there are lots of happenings in the world of New Jersey taxes and budgeting, and that they deserve comment. For some reason, I just can't summon the mental energy to do it properly this week.

Is it really the Carnival?

Tags: Carnival

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Budget Nitpick

One thing that really bothers me about this budget -- I find that I can't trust any of the numbers found therein. Let me share one example:

The compensation of members of the Legislature is $49,000 per year (C52:10A--1). The President of the Senate and the Speaker of the General Assembly, by virtue of their offices, receive an additional allowance equal to one--third of their compensation.

This should be a pretty straightforward piece of the budget, as the law spells out exactly what the budget should be. If you do the quick math, you find that 40 and one third times $49,000 is $1,976,333.33. The budget plans to spend $1,990,000 (see page D-3), or nearly $14,000 more than the law allows.

Fourteen thousand dollars may not sound like a lot, but lets take a hypothetical extension of this budgeting and see where it leads. $13,667 (the actual overrun) out of $1.99 million is 0.69%. The total spending plan for the entire state is $30.9 billion. If 0.69% of the $30.9 billion total is in excess of the requirements (like the Senators' salary budget), than that would work out to $211.75 million dollars of, as Bob calls it, slippage.

Can we afford to lose more than $211 million in slippage?

Tags: Jersey, Taxes

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Carnival of the New Jersey Bloggers, Number Fifty


Folks, I wanted this to be an extra-special fiftieth anniversary edition of the Carnival of the New Jersey Bloggers. I had all kinds of great plans for a themed carnival, featuring a song parody with links to all the submitted posts.

Two problems arose. One, my song parody just never came together. As a matter of fact, it sucked. Here's a sample, judge for yourselves:

Fifty Ways to Blog New Jersey1

The problem is all inside your head, she said to me
The answer is easy if you take it logically
I'd like to help you in your struggle to be free
There must be fifty ways to blog New Jersey

She said it's really not my habit to intrude
Furthermore I hope my meaning won't be lost or misconstrued
So I repeat myself, at the risk of being crude
There must be fifty ways to blog New Jersey
Fifty ways to blog New Jersey

Just leave her for him, Jim, get a new job, Bob
Don't try a new con, Jon, just listen to me
Trip on the rug, Doug, don't need to discuss much
Pump your own gas, lass, and get yourself free

The second problem is one every blog carnival host should face -- a whole mess of links. Getting them all to fit inside the confines of a single song would have been completely impossible, so I'll just do this the old-fashioned way. We've got a nice mix this week of regular contributors, old friends who've been away, and even friends we hadn't met yet. Let's start with them, after a nice glass of wine while we all get acquainted.

The New Folks

Several blogs were brought to my attention for the first time this week. As far as I can tell, these are their first visits to the Carnival. Please welcome them warmly and with many future links. First up is The Jersey Todd Show, a podcast blog covering the music scene. In Todd's own words from Episode 29, he's got "bands you've heard of, bands that you haven't heard of, bands you're absolutely going to fall in love with."
Corzine Watch take's the governor at his word ("Hold me accountable"), tracking his promises vs. performance. Just yesterday, they covered gas station attendants, speed limits, approval ratings, and college tuition rates. It's amazing what the governor has influence over.
Disconnect the Dots presents "OCD-enhanced analysis of the major flaws that surround us every day," and his submission this week explores the flaws inherent in today's internet.
Finally, Schadenfreude of The Fifth Column ("Bloggas with Attitude") chimes in with A Fistful of Pennies, in which money becomes an issue for some people.

The Prodigal Sons

A few folks who've visited, and even hosted in the past dropped by after long absences. Mr. Bingley of the Coalition of the Swilling starts us off by sharing his life experience with extreme punctuality. Two hours early for a first date?
Dan Riehl, in the meantime, stops blogging national events and news long enough to notice New Jersey's Attorney General. I guess asking her to enforce the law is a bit of a stretch, isn't it?
Next up is Steve Schippert, formerly of The Word Unheard. Steve has a successful new gig at Threatswatch.org, where their motto is "Supporting Security by Enhancing Awareness." Steve sends us a story about Stolen Honor Reclaimed, which is really a story about how milblogs are changing the landscape.

The Usual Suspects™2

Many of our regular contributors have stopped in this week talking about tolerance (The Opinion Mill), loss (Shamrocketship), theft (The Nightfly), shopping (The Art of Getting By), and finance ("D"igital Breakfast). Mike Hill gives us a chapter from his novel (Sluggo Needs a Nap), while Jim expounds on the glut of holidays (Parkway Rest Stop). Kate of Katespot had quite a scare this week, but fortunately Moira's fine.

Dmitri from Cobweb Studios shares another beautiful photographs, while Princess Tata gives us some disturbing images.

Gasoline prices are an understandably hot topic this week, given the near-three-dollar price for regular. Joe's Journal the Center of New Jersey Life, and The Contrarian weigh in.

Joe also highlights the ACE Project, promoting alcohol awareness at Monmouth University. Joe's brothers in the fraternity are taking up a heavy burden trying to prevent acute alcohol poisoning, and should have gotten some recognition for their efforts. Joe's blog was the only media covering their kickoff event -- nicely done, Joe!

Music makes an appearance at The 15.24 Meter Blog, with memories of Kung Fu Fighting and other great songs from 1974. The Rix Mix also talks a bit about Neil Young, folk music, and calendars.

Gil's got literature, travel, and shaving covered at Virtual Memories, and celebrates an important anniversary with some thoughtful introspection. Also in a literary state of mind, Maureen of Jersey Writers passes on a little advice via Dorothy Parker's resume.

Chanice covers New Jersey politics, especially in the big cities. Today's target: Newark and the Housing Authority.

Karl in Atlantic City agrees with President Bush (and Fausta) about the national anthem -- sing it in English! Speaking of Fausta, she doesn't like Airbus' idea of standing up in an airplane for multi-hour flights. I can't say I blame her, those "seats" look more like vertical coffins with windows.

Surprisingly, Sharon and Enlighten don't agree on an issue of taxation. There's more to it than just taxation, but you need to read both posts to really understand the differences.

In items about the news business, Danny Klein notes The Jersey Journal's appearance on the Sopranos, while Jay Lassiter was an officially credentialed blogger for today's protest rally in NYC.

Government intrusion into our daily lives? Bob's got that covered.

On the international front, Jane keeps up her relentless blogging for freedom in Yemen. If half of us worked this hard at our blogging, the newspapers would just fold up and go away.

I've got two final thoughts to leave you with. First, please read my post about the state's "hiring freeze." The numbers will send a chill up (and down) your spine. Then, stop by to see Mel for a good chuckle, and have a great New Jersey week!

Next week's Carnival of the New Jersey Bloggers will be hosted by The Fifth Column. As always, submit your links to NJCarnival@gmail.com.

1 With apologies to Paul Simon (who was born in Jersey)
2 With apologies to Jim

Tags: Carnival of the New Jersey Bloggers

Carnival 50, not ready for prime time

Watch the space above this post. I'll git-r-done, but not until late today. Sorry, but Real Life™ is getting in the way.

If you had a link you wanted to get in and thought it was too late, well, it isn't.
Feel free to submit it to NJCarnival@gmail.com.

See you later today!

Tags: Carnival of the New Jersey Bloggers

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

State Personnel Hiring Freeze

Claim: The State of New Jersey is operating under a freeze on hiring, and is reducing state personnel to save money.
Source, Budget in Brief, p. 1

Reduction of more than 1,000 staff positions with accompanying savings of $54 million through a rigorous hiring freeze, administrative efficiencies and responsible reorganization of select government functions. Limiting the filling of attrited vacancies will yield opportunities to not only control government growth
but also to do more with less by enhancing management efficiencies and streamlining services
Under Corzine's budget, the total number of people to be employed by the state in 2007 will be 1.5% higher than in 2006.

Source: Departmental budget details.

Supporting Data:
According to the budget documents submitted by the departments, state employment for 2006 stands at 84,886. 71% are paid through direct state taxes, 16% using federal funds, and 13% using "other" funds. The budget documents explain that "Other includes positions supported by fees or other dedicated resources previously reported as State Supported." [This sounds like doublespeak for a shell game, doesn't it?]
In 2007, the "state supported" headcount will drop by 1.0% (612 personnel). Those paid by federal funds will increase 4.9%, or 661 people, while the "other" category will increase by 8.5% -- 933. The net increase in state employment (and future pension liabilities, no doubt) is 1,331 more people.

Nearly every department increases its total headcount. Only three see decreases: Corrections, Personnel, and the Chief Executive. Those reductions total 164 personnel. The Public Advocate, State, and Community Affairs, on the other hand, each achieve double digit growth in their number of employees. Between them, those three departments add 220 people, more than eliminating the token reductions of other departments.

A true reduction of 1,000 staff positions would mean a state workforce reduction of approximately 1.14%. I would propose that this reduction rate be applied to every department of the government.

My (admittedly broad-brush) plan would actually reduce the number of people the state has on payroll by 1,230 people, and is more than 2,500 fewer than the governor's plan. I don't believe that this is anywhere near enough to restore fiscal sanity to our state, but it is a step in the correct direction.

I don't like to hurl accusations of lying, but the governor's statement above reeks of untruth. This budget contains massive spending increases, unsupportable personnel increases, and blatant lies about the nature of the changes. As has been said before, a reduction in the desired rate of growth does not constitute a spending cut, and a plan which ADDS 1,331 people to the payroll cannot be reconciled with a claim of a "reduction of more than 1,000 staff positions."

It was a grave mistake for the people of New Jersey to place Jon Corzine in Drumthwacket.

Tags: New Jersey, Taxes, Budget

Tuesday, April 25, 2006


I have the honor of hosting the Carnival of the NJ Bloggers this week.

Are you interested in submitting a post to be included in this week's Carnival? All you have to do is to send an email to njcarnival@gmail.com containing a link to one of your posts that you would like included in the Carnival. Or not, but maybe I might pick one of yours anyway. It's really much easier for me if you send me something, and your life should be centered around making my life easier.

Since this is Carnival # 50, I'd like to include at least 50 posts. If you've run across a new blogger from Jersey, please suggest to them that they submit a link.

If I do not hear from you by noon on Saturday, I will assume that you do not wish to be included this week. Don't do like I did last week and wait until 3 minutes before the deadline to submit a link. [Sorry, Anonymous B., but those darn Incas attacked my Greeks in Civ III and I just had to finish exterminating the filthy swine.]

Tags: New Jersey, Carnival of the New Jersey Bloggers

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Tough Choices?

As I mentioned in earlier posts, I've been going through the detailed department budgets posted on the New Jersey Office of Management and Budget website. The exercise has been a real eye-opener.

In his address to the legislature, Governor Corzine presented his budget as a series of tough choices.

The task ahead is daunting and not particularly attractive politically, for anyone. That said, the task must go forward -- no matter how tough the choices -- with a readiness to share the sacrifices.
I agree with the governor. Tough choices need to be made, but this budget does not make them. With a few notable exceptions like university funding, the governor has chosen to support the status quo of unrestrained growth. Take a look at the budgets requested by each of the departments (dollars in thousands):

Departments with increases will see an additional $3.1 billion in funding; cuts to individual departments total $493 million. A six-and-a-quarter to one ratio between increases and decreases doesn't seem much of a tough choice to me.

Maybe the tough choices become apparent when you look at what the departments requested vs. what the governor recommended to the legislature. Let's see:

Nope, no touch choices here. Twenty of twenty-two departments got exactly the tax dollars they demanded of the governor. Only Treasury (1.8%) and State (20.1%) saw reductions between their requested and recommended funding levels. Reducing the desired $4.8 billion dollars of growth by less than $350 million is more like tokenism than real fiscal management.

One last thought about the governor's "tough choices." According to the US Bureau of Economic Analysis, New Jersey Gross State Product grew 3.4% in 2004, and averaged 2.7% annually from 1997-2003. A budget which made tough choices would reduce growth in spending in at least one category, if not all of them, below the rate of economic growth. That doesn't happen here:

In this budget, overall spending grows at nearly three times the growth in our economy. It is irresponsible for the governor to make claims of fiscal responsibility when he proposes a budget that so far exceeds our means.

Tough choices, indeed.

Tags: New Jersey, Taxes, Budget, Corzine

Carnival of New Jersey Bloggers #49


No/w/here hosts a festive and friendly potluck Carnival of New Jersey Bloggers #49. Lots of links, good food, and friendly conversation, even between the lefties and righties...

Tags: New Jersey, Carnival of the New Jersey Bloggers

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Details, Details II

I've been going through the details of the state budget, and found this interesting little tidbit of information. In the Budget in Brief (page 80), the governor took credit for a $28,000,000 reduction in one-time funding for UMDNJ. The detailed budget information for the Department of State (pp. D-348-51), however, shows that there's more to the story.
UMDNJ is a huge business, with 2006 operating income projected at $1,166,984,000. In executing its operations, it expects to spend $1,402,723,000 this year, with a net cost to taxpayers of $235,739,000. The university proposed to increase its operating income (from fees, tuition, etc.) by 2.8%, and increase its general operating costs by only 0.3%, saving the taxpayers about $28 million. This seems like a very reasonable business case, and is the way a state enterprise should manage itself. Two-point-five percent productivity improvement is a pretty easy putt for an organization with over a billion dollars of income. When I worked for GE, the business expected each manufacturing plant to generate 4-5% every year.
But the university, being a state institution, cannot run itself like a business. Included in its budget request was a separate line item, titled "Appropriation Funding Difference," calling for an additional $28 million in Grants-in-Aid. It appears that this is the $28 million in one-time expenditure reduction for which the governor took credit.
Of course, UMDNJ didn't stop there. They also included separate line items for Increased Utilities Costs ($10 million), Capital Renewal / Replacement ($15.2 million), and Research Faculty Development ($5 million). Somewhere, either at State or in the governor's office, these additional funds were zeroed out. In addition, this year's general operating budget is being reduced to $1,386,375,000 (1.2%) for 2007.
The net impact of these changes is significant - $79 million less than the school requested. Without those expenditures, the net cost to the taxpayer for each graduate of the university decreases by $47,000. Now if we can get rid of the remaining $151,266 per graduate, we'll be in really good shape.

Tags: New Jersey, Taxes, Budget, UMDNJ